Make no mistake about it: by any vaguely human measure, the situation in Iraq is a US-made disaster of historic proportions. Millions dead or wounded, millions more displaced, and all overseen by a kleptocratic government more interested in grinding old enemies into the dust than governing…and of course, yes, a seemingly endless cycle of violence that claims new victims every day.
The beginning of this week saw bombs ring out all over Iraq, leaving 212 dead and 184 wounded. Three bombs exploded in a commercial district in Kirkuk, killing 31. A suicide bomber charged the gate of a security building in Baghdad, killing eleven. A Sunni mosque in Diyala was attacked, leaving 60 dead. A car bombing in Karbala killed 12. Another car bomb killed 11 people in Hilla. The butcher’s bill goes on, and on, and on.
US military operations in Iraq, directed against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are escalating by the day. Since the second week in August, the US has carried out some 100 air strikes in Iraq, has deployed about 1,000 troops back into the country, and is tickling the outside edges of bombing targets in Syria.
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The question of whether to expand this ongoing war, however, is not likely to be put to a vote in congress any time soon; a roomful of Democratic congressional aides made it abundantly clear that the last thing their bosses want is to be forced to make a public vote on further military action in Iraq. Such a vote, they claim, is far too sticky a wicket to wrangle in an election year.
Same as it ever was.
Yet consider this: the news site Vox ran a story at the beginning of August under the headline, “The US Bombing Its Own Guns Perfectly Sums Up America’s Total Failure in Iraq.” The article refers to the US air campaign against ISIS, which is flush with US weapons of war obtained from the collapsed Iraqi military. The article reads:
The absurdity runs deep: America is using American military equipment to bomb other pieces of American military equipment halfway around the world. The reason the American military equipment got there in the first place was because, in 2003, the US had to use its military to rebuild the Iraqi army, which it just finished destroying with the American military.
The American weapons the US gave the Iraqi army totally failed at making Iraq secure and have become tools of terror used by an offshoot of al-Qaeda to terrorize the Iraqis that the US supposedly liberated a decade ago. And so now the US has to use American weaponry to destroy the American weaponry it gave Iraqis to make Iraqis safer, in order to make Iraqis safer.
It keeps going: the US is intervening on behalf of Iraqi Kurds, our ally, because their military has old Russian-made weapons, whereas ISIS, which is America’s enemy, has higher-quality American weapons. “[Kurdish forces] are literally outgunned by an ISIS that is fighting with hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military equipment seized from the Iraqi Army who abandoned it,” Ali Khedery, a former American official in Iraq, told the New York Times.
So now we’re bombing the guns that we didn’t mean to give ISIS because we didn’t give guns to their enemies because then ISIS might get guns.
It makes you want to tear your teeth out, right? The Marines use a phrase – “Charlie Foxtrot” – which is shorthand for “cluster f-k,” being a series of disasters leading to total catastrophe. The United States’ involvement in Iraq, dating back to 1990 but wildly exacerbated since March of 2003, has been a pluperfect Charlie Foxtrot from the jump, and gets worse with every passing year.
Well, it depends on who you ask.
Ask the “defense” industry, the makers and sellers of all these weapons, and they’ll tell you this Iraq debacle is the greatest thing to happen since Vietnam. Twenty-four years of war since 1990, all those missiles and bombs dropped, all those bullets fired, all those armored vehicles blown up that needed to be replaced, all of which come with a price tag to be paid out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Not everyone gets a payday that lasts a quarter of a century. The “defense” industry got one, again, and it is ongoing, and expanding.
The United States is bombing weapons the “defense” industry already got paid for with ordnance they will get paid for.
Think about it this way: In the same fashion that most people think the Iraq war was a disaster, the same majority now see George W. Bush as the worst president in modern American history. By the metrics of those who delivered him to the Oval Office, however, George W. Bush was the most successful president in the history of the country. Everything he was sent to do by those who paid his freight – gut the Treasury, break the government, establish permanent war, and make his friends rich – he accomplished to perfection.
So it is with Iraq. You think it’s a disaster, I think it’s a disaster, and by any vaguely human measure, it is a disaster…but for a few people, the ones who pay that political freight and count coins according to how many bombs and bullets get used, the specter of ongoing war and fear and death and weaponized mayhem makes what is happening in Iraq the equivalent of Christmas in August, a smashing success, and a fantastic return on their investment.